According to a recent RBC small business survey, only 46 per cent of Canadian small businesses have a dedicated website, and less than half (48 per cent) of those businesses say they sell their products and services through their websites. In fact, 56 per cent of the entrepreneurs in the survey rate finding and keeping clients as one of the top business challenges that they will face over the next year, yet only 41 per cent of those surveyed promote their business using a dedicated website.
“With the majority of consumers choosing to research and shop for products and services online, businesses without a web presence are missing a significant opportunity,” says Jim Mulligan, national director, Retail, RBC Royal Bank. “Businesses need to be visible where consumers choose to be, so investing in an online strategy is fundamental to attract new customers and stay competitive.”
According to Statistics Canada, more than 80 per cent of the Canadian population is online; and a report by the Boston Consulting Group predicts that Canada’s Internet economy will grow 7.4 per cent annually through 2016. Although this represents a significant opportunity for small businesses, twenty per cent of entrepreneurs admit that keeping up to date with technology is among their top challenges.
“It is always challenging for small merchants to stay abreast of new technologies and to find the capital to grow their independent businesses,” said Diane J. Brisebois, president and CEO of Retail Council of Canada, adding that RBC in collaboration with Retail Council are investing in tools and resources to assist small merchants in capitalizing on the benefits of an online presence.
“Small merchant online and social media strategies can result in market growth and greater profitability,” noted Brisebois.
When it comes to social media, only 39 per cent of entrepreneurs surveyed say that they use social media to promote their business.
Mulligan adds that engaging in social media offers many positive benefits for entrepreneurs, citing the following examples:
- Improved market awareness;
- More lead generation opportunities;
- Increased relationship building opportunities with existing customers and prospects;
- Better reputation monitoring; and
- Additional traffic to existing web sites.
The RBC survey also found that four-in-10 (38 per cent) businesses that sell via their company website generate over 25 per cent of their revenue through their online sales, with two-in-10 (22 per cent) generating more than 50 per cent of their revenue this way.